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It’s still an odd concept: the spiritual leader of the Coptic Orthodox Christians, who also happens to be the successor of Saint Mark, travelling from the Egyptian capital to a midsized northern Dutch town – which is, in itself, not the most thrilling of locations to be – to be with the young faithful under his spiritual guidance.
Pope Tawadros II is doing exactly that this weekend. And the faithful attending the European Youth Conference love him for it. Miriam Yakob, one of the 750 attending, said, “He may even be more important to us [than the Catholic Pope]. He is our shepherd, our teacher. He is our father.” The Pope gave two talks at the conference.
On behalf of the local Catholic community, Father Maurits Damsté was among those welcoming Pope Tawadros to the conference centre in Stadskanaal, located about 30 kilometers to the south east of the city of Groningen, where the event is taking place.
Pope Tawadros’ visit follows one by his predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, who visited the Netherlands in 2010. Shenouda passed away in 2012, and Tawadros was elected in November of that year. In May of 2013, he visited Rome and met with Pope Francis.
The Coptic Orthodox is sadly not in union with Rome, and hasn’t been since the Council of Chalcedon of 451. The differences lie in Coptic understanding of the nature of Christ, but this is a highly technical issue. The Coptic Orthodox and the Catholic Church have established close ties since 1973, and have together confessed unity in the faith in Christ.
Worldwide, there are between 14 and 16 million Coptic Orthodox Christians, with the vast majority, some 12 million, residing in Egypt. In the Netherlands, there are Coptic Orthodox churches in seven cities. There is a single diocese for the roughly 6,000 faithful, headed by Bishop Arseny.
Photo credit: Rtvnoord.nl
With Pope Francis residing in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery and Coptic Pope Tawadros II visiting from Egypt, the Vatican is temporarily home to no less than three Popes. But that’s not the only remarkable thing about this week. Tawadros and Francis are repeating a visit that took place exactly forty years ago between Pope Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III.
In 1973, the Catholic and Coptic delegates came together on an important confession of faith in Jesus Christ, in many ways the essential unity to achieve before any further steps in ecumenism can be taken. In the next days, we should look with hope to the meetings between Pope Tawadros II and his associates with the various dicasteries of the Holy See.
As Pope Francis said in his address to Pope Tawadros II today:
“Of course we are well aware that the path ahead may still prove to be long, but we do not want to forget the considerable distance already travelled, which has taken tangible form in radiant moments of communion, among which I am pleased to recall the meeting in February 2000 in Cairo between Pope Shenouda III and Blessed John Paul II, who went as a pilgrim, during the Great Jubilee, to the places of origin of our faith. I am convinced that – under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – our persevering prayer, our dialogue and the will to build communion day by day in mutual love will allow us to take important further steps towards full unity.”
Photo credit: L’Osservatore Romano
A new month, and new stats. March has again been good for the blog, although it got of to a slow start. And that’s equally due to few news item as my own output. All in all we saw 7,757 visits, slightly fewer than in February. But, then again, we had no consistory this time around. But there were a few big news items, and the top 10 has a distinct Lenten flavour.
1: Seventh Station: Jesus Falls for the Second Time 268
2: The Stations of the Cross 149
3: Coptic ‘Papa Abba’ Shenouda III passes away 71
4: Another horrible page 65
5: Giving no quarter: Cardinal Eijk on the offensive 56
6: Adoro te devote, two versions and a translation 53
7: Het probleem Medjugorje 50
8: The great artificial conflict – science versus faith 45
9: Happy feast day of Saint Joseph! 44
10: Stability – Cardinal Martini on same-sex relationships 42
Pope Shenouda III, Pope and Lord Archbishop of the Great City of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy Orthodox and Apostolic Throne of Saint Mark the Evangelist and Holy Apostle that is, in Egypt, Pentapolis, Libya, Nubia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and all Africa
“On learning of the sad departure to God, our common Father, of His Holiness Shenouda III, Patriarch of Alexandria on the See of Saint Mark the Evangelist, I wish to express to the members of the Holy Synod, to the priests and all the faithful of all the Patriarchate, my most sincere brotherly compassion. I recall with gratitude his commitment to Christian Unity, his memorable visit to my predecessor Pope Paul VI, and their signing of the Joint Declaration of Faith in the Incarnation of the Son of God together in Rome, on May 10, 1973, as well as his Cairo meeting with Pope John Paul II during the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation, on February 24, 2000. I can say how the Catholic Church as a whole shares the grief that afflicts the Orthodox Copts, and how she stands in fervent prayer asking that He, who is who is the Resurrection and the Life, might welcome his faithful servant. May the God of all mercy receive Pope Shenouda in His joy, His peace and light.”
Message of Condolence from Pope Benedict XVI to the Coptic Christians, upon the death of Pope Shenouda III
There has been a small increase in the number of page views compared to last month. There were 3,537 in October, bringing the total number over the entire year up to 57,294.
Surprisingly, the upcoming consistory barely makes it into the top 10, with number 9 and 10 being about that topic. Coptic Pope Shenouda III’s visit to the Netherlands and Belgian Archbishop Léonard’s statements in the press drew much more attention. A couple of translations also rank highly, which is a first, I think. Good to see, nonetheless.
Here is October’s top 10 of popular posts:
1: Pope in the Netherlands: 134
2: Msgr. Léonard’s small mistake?: 93
3: Boodschap voor Wereldmissiezondag 2010: 85
4: Het probleem Medjugorje: 70
5: Msgr. Léonard’s statements in context: 58
6: Brief aan de seminaristen: 55
7: Pope Shenouda III in Haarlem: 54
8: A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution: 52
9: Cardinals according to John Allen: 45
10: Red Dawn: 42
On Saturday, Pope Shenouda III visited his Coptic flock in the Netherlands. The heavily secured church meeting in the Basilica of St. Bavo in Haarlem was very well-attended and took place in the presence of both the ordinary and the auxiliary of Haarlem-Amsterdam, Monsignores Jos Punt and Jan van Burgsteden.
In a long address to the Coptic faithful in the Netherlands, Pope Shenouda urged them to keep the faith of their homeland. A more extensive photo gallery can be viewed here.
Well, a pope. It’s not Benedict XVI, but Pope Shenouda III, the head of the worldwide Coptic Church, or officially the 117th Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy Apostolic See of Saint Mark the Evangelist of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. He will be visiting the Netherlands from 15 to 17 October, for the consecration of churches in The Hague and Eindhoven, a general meeting in Haarlem, a courtesy visit to the ambassador of Egypt and the opening of a Coptic cultural centre in Amsterdam.
It is a busy itinerary for the 87-year-old pope, who has been at the helm of the Coptic Church since 1971. For the general meeting on 16 October, Pope Shenouda will have the use of the basilica of St. Bavo in Haarlem, cathedral of the diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. Bishop Jos Punt spontaneously offered use of the cathedral when the organisation of the meeting was looking for a suitable location.
The Netherlands has seven Coptic parishes under the direct responsibility of Pope Shenouda in Alexandria.